You would think if Columbus Crew SC were going to make an improbable run to the MLS Cup Playoffs, it would come thanks to key contributors like Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain.
These two provide an important part to the spine of the Black & Gold formation, yet both players have been out as Crew SC makes one final attempt to erase a forgettable 2016 over these last few weeks.
Trapp has been out since a head collision in the Aug. 27 match with the San Jose Earthquakes. The central midfielder suffered a concussion, something he’s dealt with in the past, and the medical staff is being careful with the 23 year old.
In speaking with Trapp over the last two weeks, he sounds much better than a year ago when he missed nearly three months with a concussion. He explained that the symptoms were different and he felt the situation was handled better due to the experience a season ago.
The midfielder returned to training over a week ago, initially wearing a protective headgear that he said he was trying out. He did not make the 18-man game day roster for Crew SC’s 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday and the updates remain unclear as to when he will return.
“Wil’s doing okay,” head coach Gregg Berhalter updated on Tuesday. “He took part in training today and we’ll see where he’s at.”
Federico Higuain seems just as much a mystery. Columbus’ No. 10 missed six matches earlier this year after sports hernia surgery. He returned as a substitute on July 23 for 19 minutes against Orlando City SC then started the subsequent four games before again being left off the game day roster in the same match Trapp was injured.
Higuain played 45 minutes off the bench against the LA Galaxy the following week and has been absent ever since.
Up until Sunday, all that was said about Higuain’s issue was inflammation in a similar area to the sports hernia. Following the win over the Revs, Berhalter added more information.
“He (Higuain) had a slight tear in his muscle,” he said. “It started out as inflammation and then as we got the MRI we saw a little tear in his core and he’s rehabbing from that.”
On Tuesday, Berhalter labeled the injury as a strain — which is just a minor tear — and clarified that it was not the same muscle group as the initial issue and occured once he was back in training.
“He’s making progress,” Berhalter said. “I know I say that every day, but he did a little bit more today than he’s been doing. He’s getting there.”
Higuain was not working with the rest of the team when media were permitted in the EAS Training Center, but did take part in what appeared to be fitness drills on the far field.
Crew SC have won two in a row and currently sit five points back of D.C. United, Wednesday night’s opponent. The playoffs remain a possibility, but wins are now a must.
So will the Black & Gold have two of the team’s best players back at some point during the final five matches?
“They’re both progressing,” was Berhalter’s answer. “I would hope to have at least one of them back in some capacity on Wednesday, but again, we’re going to be smart with this, we’re going to make sure both of them are ready before they’re back out on the field.”